Article_RHBill_sxc.hu.jpgThe Reproductive Health Bill is perhaps one of the most controversial ones currently on our Congress's plate. Polls indicate that people support pro-RH measures, like former DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral's distribution of condoms on Valentine's Day earlier this year.

But what is keeping this bill from getting signed? Yes, there's strong opposition from the Catholic church, as evidenced by the fact that bishops will be bringing their own experts to the next RH Bill meeting with P-Noy (for more information on this, go to Spot.PH). But congressmen and senators would pass the bill if there was enough support for it among their constituents. So what is holding us back?

According to more than a few proponents, one of the leading reasons why people oppose the RH Bill is the prevalence of misconceptions about it--that is to say, the information on the bill that a lot of people have received is either wrong or incomplete.

FN hopes to clear up some of these by correcting 5 of the most common misconceptions about the bill:
  • The RH Bill is anti-life and anti-family.
  • The RH Bill is all about contraception.
  • The RH Bill is pro-abortion.
  • The RH Bill will promote a contraceptive mentality, which could lead to a demographic winter.
  • The provisions in the RH Bill would never work in a Catholic country like the Philippines.
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MISCONCEPTION #1: The RH Bill is anti-life and anti-family.

CORRECTION: The RH Bill is pro-quality life for the whole family. It ensures that more children will grow up secure in the knowledge that they were wanted because their births were planned.

In response to the notion that the bill is anti-life and anti-family, Larah Lagman, chief of staff to Hon. Edcel Lagman of Albay, who authored and introduced House Bill 96 (the RH Bill) into Congress, pointed out that the RH Bill will help give people the knowledge and means to prevent unwanted pregnancy--not prevent pregnancy altogether.

"Have as many children as you want, but don't have any children you don't want," she said during an orientation on the RH Bill. Because, she explained a little later, a child should never be made to feel unwanted.

She also noted that the provisions for family planning in the bill will help ensure that women whose health could be put at risk by pregnancy, such as those with preexisting conditions like diabetes or whose pregnancies are spaced too close together, would be offered more control over their bodies and thus their own health. This in turn ensures that more children have a better chance of having two healthy care providers in their family, Lagman pointed out.


MISCONCEPTION #2: The RH Bill is all about contraception.

CORRECTION:
Although family planning is a major proponent of the RH Bill, the bill also gives women the right of access to the appropriate health care services that ensure as safe a pregnancy and childbirth as possible. These same health care services should give couples the best chance of having a healthy infant.

"It's not just about family planning," Ms. Lagman said in her orientation. "The issue has been boxed into family planning, but it's not limited to that. It includes, for example, helping couples who are having trouble conceiving to get the information and services they need to help them conceive."

Besides which, making contraceptives and knowledge of how and why one should use them has more benefits than simply preventing unwanted pregnancies: this also helps prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, like HIV/AIDS.

Besides which, the RH Bill does not compel family planning; passing it would simply mean that if a woman should decide to engage in family planning, the state would be required to provide her with the information and supplies she needs in order to do so.


MISCONCEPTION #3: The RH Bill is pro-abortion.

CORRECTION: Under Philippine law, abortion is illegal. The RH Bill does not, in any way, legalize abortion.

In fact, many of the RH Bill's staunchest supporters hope that providing information on contraceptive use as well as making contraceptives widely available will help reduce the instances of illegal abortions. This is because abortion involves terminating an unwanted pregnancy, which is specifically what contraceptives are designed to prevent.


MISCONCEPTION #4: The RH Bill will promote a contraceptive mentality, which could lead to a demographic winter.

CORRECTION: If what is meant by "a contraceptive mentality that could lead to a demographic winter" is that people will want to stop having children, causing the end or endangerment of Filipinos as a race, Mother Nature herself will prove this patently untrue.

Since procreation is a biological imperative--in less fancy terms, couples won't stop wanting to have children simply because pills, condoms, and other contraceptives are made available to them.

This is a scare tactic used by people who don't understand the dynamics of population momentum, claims Lagman. "Gusto pa rin ng tao magparami, kahit ano ang gagawin mo. . . . Hindi po talaga mauuobs ang mga Filipino. (People are going to want to procreate, whatever you do. . . . We're not going to run out of Filipinos.)"


MISCONCEPTION #5: The provisions in the RH Bill would never work in a Catholic country like the Philippines.

CORRECTION: And yet, Lagman pointed out, countries with a larger Catholic population than our own push contraceptives, especially as a measure to discourage abortion. She named South American countries in particular, many of which are more than 90 percent Catholic. The Catholics of the Philippines, on the other hand, account for between 80 and 83 percent of the total population.

Elizabeth Angsioco, the national chairperson for the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP), had this to say on this topic: "Just because 80 to 85 percent of all Filipinos are Catholic, that shouldn't confuse us into thinking that the laws that should be passed are Catholic too, kasi may separation of church and state."

Besides which, proponents are quick to point out, the RH Bill does not force people to practice family planning. It only gives people the right to choose to if they wish it. Thus, those who believe that using modern forms of contraception is wrong will never be required to use them. As the expression goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


(Photo courtesy of sxc.hu)
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